tanzania's opposition staged its first protest in six years.

Tanzania’s opposition staged its first protest in six years.

The main opposition party in Tanzania recently organized its first big rally since the ban in 2016, which has stoked hopes for increased political freedom in the East African nation. This month, President Samia Suluhu Hassan lifted the ban on Chadema that was put on the country by her more conservative successor, John Magufuli, who was known as “Bulldozer” for his aggressive leadership style.

Hassan, who has been in power for 22 months, has reached out to members of the opposition in an effort to break with some of Magufuli’s policies. “Thank God that the day has arrived when we talk with fellow Tanzanians through this public meeting,” Chadema Chairman Freeman Mbowe said during the demonstration on Saturday, which was held in the lakeside city of Mwanza and was attended by hundreds of people.

The party had been officially registered as a political organization for 30 years on the day of the demonstration. The supporters wore the party colors, which are blue, red, and white, and sang songs honoring their leaders while a number of police officers guarded the location. Mary Dismas, a resident of Mwanza, was quoted as saying to the AFP news agency, “We have been silent for almost seven years, but finally, our right has been returned, and we are ready to move on.”

The measure was cautiously applauded as a step in the right direction by democratic rights groups and the opposition in the country. Early on in his presidency, Magufuli put an end to political rallies by declaring that the country should focus on its work rather than its politics. On the other hand, critics said that the rule didn’t apply to members of the ruling party, who were free to gather.

The police violently dispersed rival rallies, and officials from both parties were taken into custody as a result. When Hassan, Tanzania’s first female president, reached out to Tanzania’s political opponents, brought back media sites that had been banned, and rolled back some of Magufuli’s most unpopular policies, there was an initial sense of hope.

However, her administration was chastised when Mbowe and other key Chadema officials were arrested in July 2021, just hours before a public meeting to seek constitutional revisions. This occurred just hours before the meeting was scheduled to take place. Since then, Hassan has been trying to mend fences with the opposition in an effort to ease tensions that have arisen within her Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, which is currently in power.

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She held a meeting with Chadema Deputy Chairman Tundu Lissu in Brussels at the beginning of 2022. Tundu Lissu was the party’s candidate for the presidential election in 2020 but now lives in exile in Belgium following an attempt on his life in 2017. The previous week, Lissu announced that he would be returning to Tanzania on January 25. He expressed his hope that “2023 is an important year in the history of Tanzania.”

The gathering that took place on Saturday was organized in the port city where they were detained, and it was led by party member Mbowe, who had served seven months in prison on terrorist charges. “Our conversation about reconciliation with the president has yielded because even the police who arrested me in Mwanza are today guarding our meeting,” Mbowe said, asking supporters to applaud the officers “for a good job.”

The 61-year-old leader of the party claimed that the need for a new constitution and an independent electoral body was at the top of the party’s agenda currently, while at the same time pouring praise on Hassan. “I have the utmost respect and gratitude for President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s patience throughout our talk for reconciliation… Even though there are some people who are interested in hearing me bash her, I will never do that.”